While all eyes have been on Ukraine, the US approved massive foreign military deals to Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Jordan, and Kuwait.

By Nick Cleveland-Stout And Taylor Giorno, Responsible Statecraft

In February, the State Department approved almost $26 billion in foreign military sales. While escalating conflict in Ukraine forced difficult decisions, including the $6 billion sale of tanks to Poland, the lion’s share of these sales have nothing to do with the current crisis.

The State Department has approved more foreign military sales this month than in any month since November 2020. More than $5 billion of February’s arms sales went to the Middle East, contradicting the administration’s stated intention to pivot away from the region.

An Arab man in traditional clothes checks a new model of a gun visiting weapons exhibition IDEX in Abu Dhabi, UAE

Publicly, Biden maintains an image of diverting U.S. attention from the Middle East. Yet, these quiet arms sales suggest Biden’s Middle East policy is more of a continuation of the same. Before taking office, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said that he “envisioned a Biden presidency would do ‘less not more’ in the region.” The interim national security guidelines released early in the Biden presidency laid out a similar vision, claiming that “we will not give our partners in the Middle East a blank check to pursue policies at odds with American interests.” A close Biden adviser said early in his presidency that “If you are going to list the regions Biden sees as a priority, the Middle East is not in the top three…It’s Asia-Pacific, then Europe, and then the Western Hemisphere.”

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